Honoring Our Scottish Heritage: Day Five

Written by: Denise Doring VanBuren, Organizing Secretary General
October 16, 2014

The privilege of DAR membership gained new meaning for me on Thursday of our trip, when President General Lynn Young afforded Curator General  Jennie May Rehnberg and me the honor of placing the NSDAR wreath to commemorate our common ancestor, Robert the Bruce, before his imposing statue outside the gates of Stirling Castle. The castle was considered the key to controlling Scotland, and it was Robert who claimed it in 1314 following his brilliant victory at the Battle of Bannockburn.

It was the 700th anniversary of that decisive victory that brought us earlier in the day to a relatively new Scottish government memorial on the battlefield site, where an equally imposing equestrian statue of Robert the Bruce dominates the rolling countryside on which thousands of Scots fought for -- and won --- their independence. Having united the clans and defeated the English army, Robert was recognized by his own people as their king following that battle, though he did not receive the formal title from King Edward II until 1328.

What a treat it was for our buses to be met at the battlefield memorial by schoolchildren and members of the local press corps, who had been notified that Mrs. Young would hold the distinction of being the 50,000th visitor to the site! As no one had similarly notified Mrs. Young, it was a joyous surprise indeed, especially since the children carried bright balloons and waved small American flags in our honor. Mrs. Young, in turn, presented them with lapel pins bearing the flags of both the United States and Scotland. She has been a gracious ambassador for our nation and our Society at every stop along our amazing journey, and every member should be proud of her.

After a grand lunch, complete with haggis (!), we boarded our two buses to head to Balgonie Castle, which has undergone 30 years of renovation and retains the feel of an authentic medieval fortress. We were welcomed by the Much Honoured Raymond Morris, Laird of Balogonie, his son Stuart Morris the Younger of Balognie, and his wife Kelly -- who just happens to be a DAR member and Texas native! The Morris family treated all 90 of us to a delicious tea in their restored Great Hall. They are quite used to entertaining large groups, as they have hosted 1,000 weddings in their castle home. Balognie has also served as a set for the popular television series "Outlander." For those of us who enjoy this book series, it was a special treat.

In addition to our superbly arranged group events, my husband and I ventured out by car (on the wrong side of the road!) for a special day on our own on Wednesday, visiting the homes of our own Scottish ancestors. We were warmly welcomed into the private Towie Barclay Castle by its current owner, who has lovingly restored it after it had been abandoned for 200 years. Chris' family had lived in this northern Scottish estate until the 1730s before immigrating to America. We also visited the Callendar House in Falkirk, where my Livingston ancestors had lived for centuries. We managed to find ourselves and our car locked in the gates past closing; fortunately, we were helped by a kind stranger who directed us to a rear exit known to the locals!

Incidentally, one of the best parts of this trip has been to meet so many wonderful Scottish citizens and to travel with DAR members from across America on this week-long pilgrimage. We have a wonderful group of Daughters and HODARs aboard our two coaches, nicknamed "Heather" and "Thistle." We are all making new friends and learning much about our shared Scottish heritage. It has been especially interesting to learn more about the centuries-long Scottish fight for independence in the aftermath of their peaceful vote to remain part of the United Kingdom, perhaps the best illustration of true democracy in action.

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